Identifying their gifts, strengths and passions.
“Cluck, cluck, cluck.” The excited chatter of the mother hen incites her brood of few day old chicks to come running to check out the tasty morsel she had uncovered in the dust. They scoop up the grain and then scatter again, playing in the breeze as they explore their world, safe in the knowledge their mother has their backs. All of a sudden her tone changes to more of a squawk, a warning of danger. The chicks race back to hide themselves in her feathers as she squats to protect them. I love listening to the sounds of the mother hen, her language for communicating excitement and fear with her family; her dedication to raising her chicks.
It has been a week of hearing of amazing parents whose nurturing of their children’s passions has set their children’s dreams free to soar. It began when my daughter Nimu sent me a link with the subject “Watch this NOW”. It was a TedTalk by Lizzie Velasquez. Intrigued, I shed tears as Lizzie shared her story of discovering a YouTube clip titled “World’s Ugliest Woman” and how she had overcome the devastation to go on to achieve her dreams of becoming a motivational speaker. She has a condition which is so rare that only two people are known to have it. While there is no denying that Lizzie is an amazing young woman, I found myself feeling inspired by her parents who, in her words, had raised her “150% normally”. She credits “pretty much everything [she] has done in [her] life” to her parents. She shares how when she started kindergarten, she had no idea that she looked different; she thought she was a cool kid and couldn’t understand why the other kids didn’t want to play with her. Her parents’ response: “Lizzie, the only thing different about you is that you’re smaller than the other kids.” As parents, our attitudes towards our children have a serious impact on their confidence and perception of themselves. If they go out into the world believing they are amazing, they wear an invisible cloak of confidence which protects them from the cruelty of the world.
A few days later, I was coaching one of the girls in our program, Pushpa. Pushpa has a passion and amazing ability for working with less-abled children. She is starting work with the Nepal Down Syndrome Society the next week having just finished college and we were working on our plans for engaging some of the young people in the program in a career in hospitality through a pop up restaurant run by them. In preparation for this discussion, I had done some research and come across a wonderful young man in the US called Tim. Tim has Down Syndrome; but he believes this makes him a gift to the world. Tim has his own restaurant, Tim’s Place, in Albuquerque, which serves, in Tim’s words “breakfast, lunch and hugs”. It is clear that his family supports him completely. As his dad says, “When he was about 14 years old, he told us that he told us that someday he was going to own a restaurant. After we all gulped and gasped, we began to take him seriously. The result is history in the making.” His mother cannot keep the smile off her face as she tells us that they don’t know of any other restaurants owned and run by someone with Down Syndrome – “We hope that other people will follow though”, she says through her proud smile. Pushpa turned to me after watching the short video about Tim and said, “Bec, imagine what all kids could achieve if they had parents who believed in them as much as Tim’s family does?” Imagine. We have the power to give them this gift.
It wasn’t long before another example of the power of this secret ingredient of success came across my path. Nimu and I arrived at our favourite breakfast place in Kathmandu, Pumpernickel, when I squealed with excitement, causing Nimu to come running. “What happened?” Jane Goodall was coming to Kathmandu. She has been one of my heroes for a long time and one of the benefits of living in a place like Nepal is that when people come you get a lot more opportunities to meet them and spend time with them than in other places. We straight away called to book some tickets – what a treat! It was an honour to feel her passion and hear her reasons for hope. As she was talking, the theme which had been on my mind all week made another appearance as Jane spoke with passion about the role her mother had played in encouraging her to achieve her dreams. To Nimu’s disgust (she hates worms!), Jane shared how filled her bed with earthworms one night when she was young. What I loved was her mother’s response. Rather than yelling at her daughter for the mess, she calmly explained to her daughter that worms need the earth to survive and suggested she take them back outside to the garden. All through her childhood, Jane’s mother believed in her and encouraged her passion for chimpanzees, allowing Jane to explore a road not commonly taken by young women in her time. We owe a debt of gratitude to her mother for this passionate support of her daughter, setting her free to share her gift with millions around the world.
One of my primary roles in Nepal is as mother to all of the children we support. The main part of that is to identify their gifts, their strengths and passions, and to give the children opportunities to explore these, to develop them and to set them free. As I reflected on this responsibility through the lens of the powerful examples I had the privilege of experiencing this week, I summed up the lessons:
- Lesson 1 – from Mother Hens – Introduce your children to the wonders of the world and then give them the freedom to explore on their own while you watch their backs.
- Lesson 2 – from Lizzie’s parents – Be your children’s cheer squad. Let them know that even though things can be hard, they are the ones who decide what defines them. As Lizzie says, we can take those negative things people say and turn them into a ladder to climb up and achieve our goals.
- Lesson 3 – from Tim’s parents – When your children share their dreams with you, take them seriously and get behind them. If you believe in them, they will achieve those dreams.
- Lesson 4 – from Jane Goodall’s mother – No matter how ‘icky’ your child’s passions are (yes even if they are earth worms!), encourage them. They can achieve anything they set out to if they are passionate about it and if you are passionate about their interest.
My mother used to tell me – “Behind every successful man is a woman.” I’d say “Behind every successful person is a parent who gave them wings.” Let’s all give them wings.
Bec Ordish – Women’s Empowerment
Bec is passionate about learning and about life. She wears many hats through which she explores her passions, including running the Mitrataa Foundation, an organisation she founded 13 years ago to provide women and girls in Nepal with the skills and knowledge to empower themselves. Her dream is to be an inspirationalist – someone who inspires others to believe in themselves and achieve their dreams, to find their gift to the world. If we build on what is working, on our gifts and passions, we can tackle any problem faced by the world. She lives in Nepal with her two daughters, Nimu and Saraswoti. Bec can be contacted at www.mitrataa.org
Life Balance = Laughter. Cuddles. Conversations.